Is saturated fat a healthy fat?

24th May

The case of saturated fat makes a compelling story of research (misinterpreted), egos (that were too big) and herbivorous rabbits force fed a carnivore's diet in an experiment sponsored by money that came from all the wrong places. Big mistakes and an even greater blow to our health.

Cholesterol horror stories have been repeated for far too long and are unsettlingly different from long-established scientific facts. The following two quotes from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition may really surprise you:

“There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.” And,

“Despite the conventional wisdom that reduced dietary saturated fat intake is beneficial for cardiovascular health, the evidence for a positive, independent association is lacking.”

Finally... we can explain why our ancestors, whose energy came mostly from animal fat, did not all die from heart attacks!

In fact, up until the 1930s heart disease was very rare. Today it kills more men than anything else (and is the second biggest killer for women). A steady increase in its grim consequences has begun with the introduction of low fat recommendations by the government. Lesson learned..?

Is animal fat a healthy choice?

Yes, fatty meat and dairy are good for you. The fat content of bacon, for example, is approximately

● 40-50% saturated fat,
● 40-50% mono-unsaturated fat (the type found in olive oil), and
● 10% polyunsaturated fat (aka omega 3s and 6s);

it's a near perfect ratio of fats found naturally in the human body (ponder this alone) and an absolutely essential mix that propels energy production, ability to use fat as fuel, adequate sex hormone levels and... your sanity - the brain is the fattiest organ in the body. It's composed of nearly 60% of fat and is very cholesterol hungry. Don't feed it and you'll run into trouble.

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Replacing animal fats with vegetable oils is a very bad idea

Vegetable oils contain a lot of omega 6s which poses a problem. According to (trustworthy) studies we eat (way) too much omega 6 in relation to omega 3. This increases inflammation which is at the root of many modern (and proliferating) ailments such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. These oils are also highly unstable – they oxidise easily during production or cooking to deliver an even harder hit to your health. Oils from rapeseed/canola, sunflower, corn, safflower or soy are something you should never consume.

There are safe and beneficial plant based oils (but only when they are cold pressed):

● avocado oil
● nut oils (not peanuts)
● coconut oil
● olive oil

Still, animal fats should be the main source of fat in a healthy diet:

● fats from grass-fed and free range meat (it has 2 to 5 times more omega-3s than grain-fed)
● grass-fed, non homogenised (!) dairy, including butter and cream● oily fish

Beware that organic dairy is a marketing scam – it doesn't come from grass-fed cows and can be (and most often is) homogenised. This leads to another important point to bear in mind.

Quality matters!

Protein, carbs or fats are never bad in themselves. But poor quality fat, as any other food or macro-nutrient, can be.

Fat tissue is where we store toxins. As animals do the same, eating fatty meat or dairy of inadequate quality becomes a toxic burden. A healthy standard is meat from stock that was not fed corn, soy or other heavy metal laden grains that produce a sub-par structure of fat. You also don't want fat (or meat) from animals who were given antibiotics, growth hormone and all the other nasty stuff large farms like to use.

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'Quality' also relates to the chemical structure of the fat - oxidised fatty acids cause inflammation to the detriment of your mitochondria. Put simply, if the mitochondria are not healthy, neither are you. Practically any processed meat will contain oxidised fat (i.e. fat damaged by high temperatures). To that, producers add a long list of chemicals and preservatives you really, really don't want to be putting in your body.

In the next article we'll explain why you need fat in your diet to maintain a lean body. Until then.

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